Briefing Notes: Reporting international development – where next?
Sarah Johnson Guardian Development reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
Yasir Khan Editor in Chief Thomson Reuters Foundation email@example.com
Will Worley Devex UK correspondent firstname.lastname@example.org
Yasir took over as Editor in Chief last year, before that he was with Euronews. He charted the change in journalism during Covid from being entirely office and telephone based to returning to travelling. Things were almost back to normal. Journalists were coming in to the office for 2 days a week. He said there was now an appetite for non Covid stories, as Covid fatigue had set in.
Since his arrival much has changed at TRF. Its close relationship with Reuters meant that its stories always went out on the wires and this was their main focus. Now they are digital first, focusing on web as this is where they think the growth will be. Their stories still go out via Reuters so you will see them in newspapers around the world. Yasir has moved TRF away from following the daily news agenda and for the most part it will steer clear of this.
There are 3 main areas of focus: climate change, inclusive economies and technology and society. He is publishing a lot less and going for depth instead. New insights into key policy debates. New evidence. Stories that haven’t been touched on by other media. There are no hard and fast lines between these topics. Their audience is ‘purpose-driven professionals.’ They have lots of places where they can catch up the news – TRF are giving them depth and fresh insights. Their audience research indicates that this is what their audience wants. They are also keep on establishing a thought leadership role for themselves.
However, they did find that they gained an audience for stories on Afghanistan that no one else was covering – such as what was happening to beauty salons.
Sarah joined the GD team last year and her brief covers human rights and global development. She has a particular interest in health and writing about non-communicable diseases. Travel is not yet back to normal. Sarah did make on trip since joining, to Kenya, where she worked with the Global Fund on a series of stories on TB, malaria and HIV.
The GD team consists of 3 full time reporters and one part timer with Tracy McVeigh as editor. The brief has changed under Tracy’s editorship – they are no longer mainly aiming at the GD community; instead they want to run stories that work for a mainstream audience. This means more human interest and human angles, more for example on the impacts of climate change on communities.
They are covering mainly low and middle-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. She’d like to do more on Latin America and more stories focused on one community but which are emblematic of bigger problems. Their agenda includes health, livelihoods, gender, equality, food security, migration and the climate crisis. They want to run stories that no other national newspaper is doing. Some popular stories on the site have been about the impact of Covid on tourism, an interactive story on Israeli bombing of Gaza, her own story on the little-known disease noma.
Will has spent most of the last two years reporting on the merger of the FCO and DFID and the subsequent cuts to aid. He has sometimes found it hard to get NGOs to go on the record if it involves criticising the government as they are worried about jeopardising future funding. Devex is much smaller that GD or TRF and they have a narrow focus. Their audience is people working in international development, for UN agencies, for charities, in government or think tanks. Global health is a big part of their agenda so they devoted a lot of resources to covering the impact of Covid in developing countries.
A question was asked about whether these media outlets were talking about decolonising language in the same way as the development sector is. All the speakers said that they thought carefully about the language they used – for example the term refugee or migrant and that there was nothing new to this. It was clear that they had not taken on board some of the more recent debates about language which Bond is leading on. There may be an opportunity for a fruitful dialogue between the media and development sectors – it would be good to know what IBT members think about this.